Longlisted for the Picture Book Category of the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award
Little Home Bird by Jo Empson (author and illustrator)
Child’s Play ISBN: 978-1846438905
‘Home Tweet Home.’
Gentle and beautifully written, ‘Little Home Bird’ is a story for all children who love home, no matter how many they have. Little Bird loves his home, a nest surrounded and filled with all of his favourite things: his favourite branch, his favourite food, his favourite music and his favourite view. But Little Bird’s world is about to be turned upside down!
One day, when the wind blows cold and the leaves begin to fall, his big brother tells Little Bird that they must leave their home and fly south for the winter. Little Bird does not want to leave his home, the place filled with his favourite things and the place he feels his happiest and safest. He would miss it all too much. So, Little Bird decides he will take his home with him!
Along the way, he gradually loses his favourite things, each finding a new place to be and becoming someone else’s favourite thing. By the time Little Bird reaches his new home, he has none of his precious belongings left. But, despite missing his favourite things and the home he had to leave, Little Bird finds happiness, new favourite things and, most importantly, he finds that he feels at home in his new home.
This story is the perfect starting point for talking about home, what it means to us, what makes our homes feels like ‘home’ and what it is like to leave a home (this could be moving house to a new home down the road or even moving across the world – the will be a wealth of experiences within the classroom to draw upon).
‘Did you know a home can be here or there?
It may be near or far, big or small, and even hot or cold.
And sometimes you can have two homes – just like us.’
Jo Empson’s beautiful illustrations are filled with movement and atmosphere. As the reader joins Little Bird on his great journey, each double page unfurls to show part of the ever-changing landscape beneath and captures the vastness of the journey such a little bird must take. These watercolours perfectly bring the story to life: you can feel the heat radiating from the savannahs and the cold winds of the snow-capped mountains blow across the pages.
Little Bird would be a fantastic starting point for exploring journeys. This could start with the obvious – the migration of birds – but really, the possibilities are endless. Exploration of animal migration would be an exciting way to explore climate and world geography. It would be a great way to introduce map work too. Children could learn about the reasons why animals migrate and the dangers they may face along the way. Using their mathematical knowledge, they could use the scales on the maps to compare the distances different animals migrate.
Children could also investigate the migration of people through time, once again learning about the reasons why people migrate as well as any dangers they may find along the way.
Through writing, children can explore the use of rhyme and assonance, utilising these skills in poetry. A poem could be written for the different places Little Bird encounters along the way. Each item from Little Bird’s nest is dropped into a different setting with a different character; what a fun way to begin a new story. The children are given a setting, a character and an object to help get the imagination fizzing and can use the illustration from the associated page as an extra stimulus.
Jo dedicates this heart-warming tale to ‘all the little birds between two homes.’ In this day and age, there are so many reasons why our little birds may be living their lives between two, if not more, homes. They may move between their homes regularly or have left one home for another with no certainty when, or even if, they will return. For all of these children, the message in the story is a simple one: home can be found anywhere in the world. With change comes exciting new opportunities and a chance to discover new ‘favourite things.’